‘So…tell me something!’ my five year old son, who was growing mischievous by the minute, asked me one day.

‘What?’ I pulled him close.

‘Is God really big?’ His eyes were sparkling.

‘Yeah….I think so’, I answered very very carefully, trying to trace the race track, his mind was galloping on.

‘Is He bigger than me?’


‘Is he bigger than our house?’


‘Is he bigger than everything?’

‘Definitely!’ I answered and breathed a sigh of short-lasting relief. That was easy.

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There was silence for a few moments. I shook my head and started thinking of trimming the rose bushes, when the tornado came back to life.

‘Will he burn me in fire if I am a bad boy?’ There was real fear underlying the innocent query.

‘Huh! ‘Why do you say so? Who said that to you?’ The overprotecting father in me sprang to attention.

‘Qari Saab’, he answered nonchalantly.

Okkaayyyy….., let him come again and I will clear his doubts. My silent fury was interrupted when he asked again,

‘So is He going to burn…..’

‘Hey buddy! You know what?’ I hurriedly barged in.

‘God is just like your mom’.

‘Fat…?’ He asked with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

‘No!’ I said emphatically. ‘Not fat!’ I desperately looked around to check if the lady of the house was within earshot.

‘He is kind and loving and…’ I was thinking of other synonyms.

‘Okay!’ It was the only response and the matter was solved.

I looked at him playing happily with his water gun and thought, ‘you don’t know it yet little man. But most probably that’s going to be the biggest question, you’ll ask yourself one day’.

     When I was young, I thought it was Him Almighty, promising hellfire from the loudspeakers of the nearby mosque, on a hot Friday afternoon. However, a quick and stern admonishment by my nearly amused but horrified mother, put that straight forever.

     A while later, I attributed the same protocol to a majestic old man, appearing in a frequently televised Egyptian hymn. But this time, the correction of this innocently blasphemous idea, did not require efforts of my mother. Rather the credit went to some Italian artist whose expert and explicit rendering of Him, Adam and Eve, supplied me with the perfect candidate.

So the ‘who?’ was almost solved. That left out the ‘what?’ part.

      In the later years, the dilemma for my near adolescent brain, was deciding who was right. Whether it was my long-bearded Islamiyat teacher or my scholarly maternal grandfather.

      According to my teacher, God was the personification of anger and retribution, with a few nice gestures thrown in for flavor.

      Conversely, my grandfather believed the Almighty to be an embodiment of love and benevolence. Naturally, it was easier to believe my grandpa. But it was only in the mid-thirties, that I realized the significance of those two different schools of thought.

     My teacher possessed a sense of virtuous superiority and was also a sufferer of the ‘holier than though!’ syndrome. Therefore, he wanted everyone else in the world to be the victim of God’s fury. On the other hand, my grandpa, though a real good man in every sense of the word, was devoid of any affection for ritual religion. His formal commitment to the Almighty started and ended with the Eid prayers. I think this disinterest made him a bit guilty and also led to an overconfidence in His infinite mercy. This very same phenomenon is visible in every human being. The devout normally become strict with rigid demands for Godly justice; whereas the normal ones like to believe in His mercy.

     I am no different. Being an old fan of small sinful pleasures, my God is kind and affectionate, with an intimate understanding of my weak human nature. He is more a friend than a master.

My God is beautiful when I hear Him in the sonorous voice of Pavarotti and see Him in the eyes of a pretty woman.

My God is love concentrated, when I sense His warmth in the kisses of my loving daughter and the dotting attention of my mother and wife.

My God is an artist when I witness His work in the dark billowing clouds; and He becomes a perfumer, when I smell the intoxicating fragrance of the rain drenched black soil.

My God is my perfect companion for life as I feel him all around and inside me.

     Like the early Sumerians and Babylonians, whose rich carried the jeweled statues of their personal favorite gods in their pockets, I carry mine in my heart. Except that in addition to being God, He is also the best of my few true friends.

He quietly whispers an admonishment in my ear when I am going wrong; and then bends His head in knowing sadness, when I still go ahead with a pleasure-driven stubbornness.

He fills my heart with compassion for a fellow being in need; and then appreciates my goodness when I give more than I can.

He gifts me with patience to bear the pressures of life; and then conjures up surprises out of thin air, to give me hope.

He lends a sympathetic ear to my problems with utmost patience; and presents perfect solutions to apparently unsolvable issues.

    After interpreting his existence on purely personal basis, my only quandary remained comprehending His role for everybody else.

   As I remember, a few years ago a religiously transformed and hence an ex-friend of mine, was explaining the proprietary rights for heaven and hell. His claim was simple: heaven for only virtuous Muslims; and hell for all other sinners, Christians, Jews etc. alike. Though throughout the discourse, he bent his head in humble supplication every few minutes, I could clearly detect the dancing images of seventy hooris in his pious eyes. However, apart from envying his future harem, my point of view was principally different.

‘So what will happen to the tribes of Africa and the Australian Aborigines, who have no knowledge of Islam?’ I asked, while  feeling perfectly logical.

‘Hmm!’ He gave a dramatic pause. ‘It is their bad luck, but they will all go to hell.’

I couldn’t believe my ears.

‘You see, my misguided friend…..’ He continued. ‘Islam appeals to everyone, through their conscience. If they listen to this voice from within, it is okay. But if they fail to hear this voice, they will all burn in hell’. He ended his sentence with a casual shrug.

‘But, I thought it was goodness and universal morality and not religion, which appeals through conscience.’ I tried to crack that heart of stone.

He merely disregarded my sinful presence and got up to embrace a new-found bearded friend. That was my last meeting with him and so far as I know, he is still acquiring prime property in heaven to accommodate all seventy of you know who.

      Without going into any further details, it is enough to state that more attempts towards clarification of this issue, nearly got me branded as a kafir. So considering the fact that a man of my humble background can ill afford private protection, I now restrict myself to personal boundaries. But I do believe in His friendship towards a better life and a possible resident visa to heaven. I also strongly believe that He made me and therefore knows the inner mechanics of my soul intimately. He may laugh or even frown upon my follies, but till the time I continue striving to be a better human being, we both are on fairly good terms. My two children are going to inherit this friendship, no matter what, and I hope it works out for them too.

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  1. My sentiments exactly——–so simply and clearly presented, it’s Brilliant !!!
    I will forward this to my son ( an adult now) who still keeps coming back with the same questions.
    However by now he probably has his own theory which I’m not quite ready to hear yet !

    Great job, God Bless—–your personal one

    1. I am really grateful for your continuous and most ego boosting patronage. My son is about eleven and we regularly have conversations like these, which I assure you, her mother considers blasphemous. Anyway I am waiting for a time when I find answers for him and vice versa. Thank-you once again. Please keep on visiting

      1. I feel fortunate to have found your blog—–must say these days it’s rare to find Classy and Substantial material to read.
        The Pleasure is all mine Shehryar, I will return soon to read the rest of the material on your blog.

  2. I happened to read this again today and the following resonated with me: “——my God is kind and affectionate with an understanding of my weak human nature. He is more a friend than a master—“. So comforting to know that these sentiments are alive and there are people like yourself who can so beautifully put them in words as a lasting testament to Truth !!!! Keep writing Shehryar, God Bless.

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